Book review: The Good Shepherd
by Kenneth E. Bailey
Bailey is a careful researcher whose passion and experience shines through. He spent 40 years living and teaching New Testament in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus. I have another of his books on my shelf, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, that I’ve skimmed and am dying to find time to read. So, given that the Good Shepherd is a topic of great interest to me, this book was a gold mine. I wish had been able to read this book before writing my own about the Gospel of John, since the Good Shepherd (as well as the bad shepherd) is an integral part of John’s theology.
Bailey starts his analysis back in the 23rd Psalm. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. This Psalm sets the theme for later Old Testament writers, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah, who expound on the shepherd tradition in different ways. I’ll run a comparison of these Old Testament variants on the 23rd Psalm in a later post. The tone is then set for Jesus’s arrival, and all four Gospel writers embrace the image of a shepherd to describe Jesus, particularly in matters of salvation.
One of the most interesting parts of the book was Bailey’s own experience, and the experience of those he met, in tending sheep. How confidence is gained in the sheep, how they must be cared for, how they learn the voice of the shepherd, and more.
This is not light reading–it’s one of those books that you actually have to study to get the full benefit–but I highly recommend making the effort.
InterVarsity Press, © 2014, 288 pages